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Driving historic U.S. Highway 80 is like traveling back to the days when “getting there” was more important than “arriving.” Many of the cafes and diners along the way reflect the spirit of the road of decades past, mostly the 1950s, when traveling by car or RV became “the way to go.”
But travelers can also dine at an array of establishments that pre-date the old road’s “glory days,” such as a restaurant that memorializes the first airplane to land in Arizona, or another that was new – albeit on a distant continent – when Oliver Cromwell was lord protector of England. Old Highway 80 offers many such tempting options, including:
According to John Dimos, who bought the historic building 47 years ago, nine years after it opened as a restaurant, the Red Fox was built as a pub in Surrey, England in 1650.
The pub, rich in Old English-style wood paneling and carvings, had been dismantled and brought to this country by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst for his mistress, actress Marian Davies, in 1926. But once here it languished in storage till the 1950s when it was purchased and rebuilt in its current location by a friend of Hearst’s.
The 2500-square foot restaurant, which can seat 150 diners, is open daily for lunch and dinner (food served from 11:00 a.m. until midnight). The Red Fox is famous for steaks (all the meat is cut here), seafood and salads (dressings are also house-made). Prices are reasonable.
This café, which preserves 1950s highway lore in photos, posters of film stars Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and others, plus an array of memorabilia, is located a few blocks north of Old Highway 80. The booths and bar stools that seat 102 diners also are reminiscent of the historic era. Owner Steve Asaro says food is traditional American style, with reasonably-priced entrees and other dishes (such as the house-special omelettes) generous enough to feed two. The café, located in the antique section of town, is open from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily.
Por Favor, decorated in colorful folk-art “Mexican boutique” style, features patio dining, says Gabe Marrujo, who opened the restaurant ten years ago. The family-style restaurant, open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., offers a host of Mexican dishes, including chorizo, huevos rancheros, machacas (a creation of beef, eggs and sautéed vegetables served with rice, beans and tortillas) for breakfast, and carnita (a popular pork dish), shrimp, salads and other items for lunch and dinner. The restaurant offers a variety of Mexican draft beers, and the house-specialty 32 oz. Margarita is especially popular.
This café, also owned by Gabe Marrujo and located just a few steps east of Por Favor (E. Main is Old U.S. Highway 80), serves “a little of everything,” he says. Typically American foods such as salads, burgers, wraps and a variety of pasta dishes are on the menu, as are fajitas and other Mexican dishes. The family-style restaurant, also an “out-door venue,” features a brick bar and “historic look.” Diners enjoy live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
This family-style café opened in 1962 and quickly became popular with travelers on Old U.S. 80 as it also included a filling station, the only one along an 80-mile stretch of road. The filling station is now gone, but the café has been expanded to seat 100 diners, and features memorabilia and an old-fashioned jukebox from the days when Highway 80 was “the Boulevard of America.” A road-worthy 1929 Model-A “Roadster” sits outside.
The café, which is open daily (even Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), offers a variety of foods, including Spanish omelettes, rib-eye and other hand-cut steaks, barbecue ribs and chicken, Reuben sandwiches, half-pound burgers and much more, said Navy-retiree Bud Wharton, who with his wife, Debra, has owned La Posta for the past ten years.
La Posta is known for hosting huge gatherings (such as to celebrate the recent 100th birthday of local resident John Finn, the first World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and to raise funds for a widow whose husband was murdered). Everyone is welcome at these events – and Bud Wharton says “you may come in a stranger but this is such a friendly place you won’t be one long.” Winter hours are Sunday-Thursday 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Friday-Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; summer hours are daily 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The bar and grill occupies land that was once a baseball field – where the first airplane to touch down in Arizona landed in 1911, says Yvonne Peach, who with her husband, John, owns the eatery. The plane – a Wright brothers’ Model B biplane called the “Cole Flyer” – was piloted by Robert Fowler, who was taking part in a cross-country air race from California to Florida and needed to refuel, said Peach.
The 800-pound plane topped out at 45 miles per hour, she adds with a smile. A bronze statue of Fowler (whose hat more recently flew with astronauts to the moon) has been erected outside the restaurant, and the interior is decorated with early-flight memorabilia including model planes that “fly” overhead.
Some 500 photos of old Yuma and other historical artifacts also adorn the walls of the restaurant that was built by John Peach’s parents in the 1930s (it’s been Yuma Landing Bar and Grill for the past quarter century). Peach calls the menu “California cuisine” with a variety of Mexican dishes, steaks (including their famous grilled “campfire” steak), pasta dishes such as fettucini, and seafood.
Peach notes that the restaurant is adjacent to the country’s oldest Best Western Motel (built in 1938), but is also within easy walking distance (a block or two) of numerous campgrounds, and thus is popular among RVers.